Posts Tagged ‘Pregnancy’

Preparing for Childbirth

With the birth of our second little one only a few weeks away, I am beginning all of my final preparations for bringing another baby into our home.  Some of the most important preparations this time around have been actually preparing for labor itself.  While I had a vague idea of the importance of preparation for labor the first time around, I had no idea the magnitude of its significance.  Now that I have been through it once, I am excited to do all I can to ease the way for the second time around.

One of the most profound truths I learned the first time around is that giving birth can be so much more than just something our bodies do after we have been pregnant for nine months.  We can either view labor and childbirth passively as something that simply happens to us, or we can see it as something intensely spiritual and even miraculous, with the God-given ability to sanctify us and make us more like Christ through the process.

In light of that fact, here are some of the practical ways in which I am preparing body, soul and spirit to give birth.

1.  Prepare Physically

Physical Exercises.  Giving birth is a massive physical effort.  Our bodies need to be toned and ready for this incredible feat.  But preparing physically does not have to be a task of insurmountable proportion!  Simply taking a daily walk is extremely beneficial.  Most childbirth books will recommend at least a few stretches and toning exercises to prepare for labor.  What to Expect When You are Expecting has some helpful exercises.  Kegels strengthen the pelvic floor, wall-squats tone leg muscles for giving birth while squatting, the dromedary droop aids in relieving back pain and pressure, just to name a few.  I have also done German Stabilization core strengthening (similar to Pilates) throughout my whole pregnancies and felt the positive effects daily.  Find a routine that is helpful to you and build these exercises into your morning routine just as you do with washing your face and brushing your teeth. You will find yourself feeling better during pregnancy, throughout labor and following birth if you do! You will not regret it!

Use Herbal Teas and Supplements.  Herbs have been used for thousands of years in the physical and emotional preparation for childbirth.  Some of the most widely used herbs are red raspberry leaf and nettles.  Red raspberry leaf is believed to relieve leg cramps, diarrhea, and morning sickness in pregnant women, as well as tone the uterus, reduce the risk of hemorrhage, ease pain in labor and post-partum recovery and increase breast milk. Nettle leaf is excellent to add to a tea around four weeks before delivery to aid in postpartum milk production. I enjoy Traditional Medicinals pregnancy teas.  My two favorite for preparing for labor are their Red Raspberry Leaf Tea and their Organic Pregnancy Tea.    Mountain Rose Herbs offers a wonderful variety of organic herbs to brew your own tea at a fraction of the cost.  Be sure to check with your midwife before drinking these teas, though, as red raspberry leaf in particular (depending on how strongly it is brewed) can cause contractions and even induce labor.  I have been drinking Traditional Medicinals throughout my entire pregnancy with no increased contractions, but as I am at risk for pre-term labor, I am holding off on brewing my own raspberry leaf tea until closer to my due date.’

Visit a Chiropractor.  Since our experience with upper cervical chiropractic care dramatically altered our son’s life, we are new “believers” in the amazing benefits of chiropractic care.  As there are many different forms of chiropractic–many of them not beneficial–I recommend finding a certified upper cervical chiropractor in your area.  Our wonderful chiropractor is Dr. Newhouse of Newhouse Health Solutions, and if you live in our area, we cannot recommend him highly enough!  Chiropractic care has been proven to decrease pain and duration of childbirth, can help align the baby for a safe and quick exit (using the Webster Technique), and can help keep your whole body aligned as your ligaments loosen up during pregnancy. For further information on the benefits of chiropractic care during pregnancy, visit here.

2.  Prepare Emotionally

Studying the process of childbirth as God designed it has been one of the most amazing, rewarding, awe-inspiring things I have ever done! Preparing my mind for what to expect during labor and delivery, how the body works and functions, what problems can arise, and how to work through them, has been eye-opening and empowering.  I cannot recommend enough that each woman study this amazing process before they go through it! With my first, as excited as I was to experience giving birth, I didn’t feel the need to learn much about the process myself.  I expected the doctors to handle that department.  And I figured my body would just kick itself into gear and do what it was supposed to do whether I informed myself on the process or not.  After all, women have been giving birth for thousands of years, right? What’s to know? I actually found that informing myself on the process has helped immensely in relieving fear and anxiety, as well as giving me tools to cope with labor.

Two Excellent Natural Childbirth Resources:

The Christian Childbirth Handbook. I have been so     blessed by reading this book! Obviously coming from a Christian perspective, this book details not only the body’s physical process of giving birth, but weaves in Scripture and God’s good design to offer comfort for anxiety and fear during labor.  I also love the balanced approach to a desire for natural childbirth and the reality of complications or medical emergency making that impossible.  The wealth of information on how God designed our bodies to work in giving birth caused me to stand in awe of our Creator and fall in love with His design.  The knowledge it afforded me has increased my excitement and given me tools to cope with the fear and pain involved.  It also addresses issues at the heart level and encourages belief in God’s goodness and sovereignty no matter how labor and delivery may differ from what you had planned.

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth is an excellent tool for informing yourself about the process of birth, as well as what to expect in a normal birth, variations, possible complications, the risks and benefits involved in each medical intervention, etc.  A wonderful resource for understanding all that is happening and could be suggested to aid the labor process.

Take a Childbirth Class

Most hospitals offer childbirth or Lamaaze classes for their patients before they give birth.  These can be a one day class or a multiple week course, depending on where you go.  You can also take more advanced courses on natural childbirth like Bradley offers.  These can be pricey, but they are well worth the investment!

3.  Prepare Spiritually

Labor is, for most people, intense, painful, and exhausting.  No matter how prepared you are for childbirth, the experience can throw curves you did not expect and test even the most educated laborer.  Childbirth brings with it not only physical pain, but emotional fear of the process itself.  Labor can try your patience, perseverance, and pain tolerance!  All of these things can either cause a person to spiral out of control into panic, or you can ask the Lord to give you the presence of mind to allow all of these things to sanctify you and draw you into deeper relationship with Him.  Childbirth can be a miraculously spiritual experience of crying out to the Lord and finding his grace and strength is sufficient when you are at the end of your own.

Ushering a new life into the world and then nurturing that life is one of the most amazing tasks the Lord has given to us.  It is one of the sweetest and most rewarding blessings.  It is also one of the most intensely challenging roles we can possibly have.  I had no idea the truth of this statement until our firstborn arrived, and I found myself sorely lacking in spiritual preparation for all that motherhood demanded of me. I have prayed ever since Jeshuah’s birth that the Lord would use the lives of our children to mold and sanctify my heart through the sacrifices required of me.  In my pursuit of holiness in the calling of motherhood, I have found a couple of books I particularly refreshing.

Calm My Anxious Heart.  Linda Dillow addresses the issue of contentment in all circumstances and its relation to anxiety.  She challenges our hearts to rest in God’s sovereignty in all things and not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed with “what ifs” and “if onlys.”  As post-partum fear and anxiety was a huge struggle for me after my last birth, I am clinging to the truths of Scripture and words of wisdom found in this book.

In The Mission of Motherhood, Sally Clarkson outlines the importance of the calling of motherhood with Scriptural encouragement to not grow weary of doing good, even when we do not see the result of our labors some days! A great resource to remind us of the eternal value of our roles as mothers.

Comforts from the Cross. Elyse Fitzpatrick has a profound gift for weaving the truth of the gospel into the circumstances of everyday life. With short, almost devotional-length chapters, she addresses multiple issues that we each face daily and confronts them with the gospel.  A delightful, easy read full of long-lasting, heart penetrating truths.

Finally, as you do all you can to prepare your body, mind, and spirit for childbirth and motherhood, come before the Lord with hands open in surrender to His will in all of it.  Preparation is important and it is a wise task, but it can cause us to claim too much ownership in an area we are meant to continually surrender to God’s providence.  We can be tempted to insist that, because we have “done our part,” God owes us a labor, delivery, and baby just the way we prepared for.  But I am reminded of Psalm 84:11, “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”  However labor, delivery, and recovery progress, God is good in the midst of it all.

Ask the Lord to enable you to let go of your desire for control in the area of both childbirth and motherhood.  Entrust the process of birth and the life of your little one into his care, knowing that He knows what is best for us so much more than we do!

Further Childbirth Reading:

Embracing the Pain and Letting Go of Fear in Childbirth

Scriptural Encouragement for Preparing and Giving Birth

Preparatory Resources for a Natural Pregnancy and Childbirth

Hello, Baby Bunting!

20 week ultrasound photoshoot

We had our 20 week ultrasound yesterday.  I was counting up, and even though I have had six total ultrasounds, four with this baby alone, I could hardly contain my excitement for this ultrasound.  Every time I see that tiny little baby squirming around in there it fills me with such awe of God’s creation!

The ultrasound was just as exciting as I anticipated, including Grandma Lisa accompanying and seeing her grandchild in utero! Baby Bunting (as I have affectionately dubbed him or her) was wiggling around like crazy. We had an amazing technician who explained and pointed to everything we were seeing and informed us the baby is weighing in at 13 oz and a due date of January 26 looks accurate.  We maintained our resolve to keep the gender a secret until birth and left the room thrilled that we get to have that little mystery this time.

The ultrasound was followed by an appointment with my midwife, where she assured us that everything looks wonderful and healthy with the baby, but where she cautioned to continue to be careful and take it easy throughout the course of the pregnancy.  Last weekend I had such intense cramping that I couldn’t even stand, so even though I feel carefree because we haven’t had any bleeding scares in awhile, things are still a bit risky for a preterm birth.

So, here’s hoping Baby Bunting continues to incubate for another 4 months!

I discovered an amazing Scripture this morning in my reading.

Psalm 71:6 “Upon You I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb.”  Whenever it is that this baby makes its entrance, it is an amazing comfort to know that it is God who will bring this baby into the world. What an awesome God we serve!

Taking Refuge in the Gospel

Willcox Baby, Week 16

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.” Psalm 13: 5-6

“I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body will also rest secure…You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill my with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:9, 10, 11

Stephen and I have been reading the Psalms lately. It has been awhile since I poured over them, and I had forgotten what a balm to the soul they are! If anyone knew suffering and trials, it was David! I love how honestly he relays his struggles, “How long will you forget me, oh God?”, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, “O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger…be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint.”  He grapples with serious, painful situations, but in the end, he always comes back to preaching truth to himself. Even while David may feel abandoned by God, he knows that God has always been faithful in the past. The Psalms always end with truth and rejoicing in God’s unfailing love and faithfulness.

Two major things have weighed heavily on our hearts these past few months.  The intensity, difficulty, and increasing demands of Stephen’s job, and this pregnancy, which seems to be ever hanging in the balance.  While we are grateful for his job, because it brought us to the Quad Cities and First Baptist Church, it is taking its toll on our family. The ever-lengthening hours and physical requirements take everything Stephen has to give, and he has practically nothing left when he gets home.  While we have been crying out to the Lord to provide another job the whole time we have been here, in the last few months, our cries have reached a new intensity as we both have reached our breaking point. Some days it is tempting to wonder if God has indeed forgotten us.

And then there is this little life within me.  It seems every couple of weeks, we are shakily calling the doctor again (it always happens to be after hours, too!) asking what we should do in light of the current situation.  When I get into the ER or the office, the answer is always the same.  They simply do not know what is wrong, if anything is wrong, what to do about it, and if or how this pregnancy will continue.  On our last visit, the doctor’s main concerns were 1)possibility still may miscarry 2)risk of preterm labor.  While it is wonderful to hear a heartbeat every visit, and amazing to see that tiny little body on the ultrasound screen wriggling around inside me, I am always left with the reality that that doesn’t promise anything for the future.

I have good days and bad days. I have days where I feel confident, hopeful, and peaceful, that everything is going to be fine, and I will deliver a healthy, full-term baby.  And I have days where I cannot climb out from under this weight of heaviness over my heart, gnawing at me that I will not get to raise this baby either.

That is why I am grateful for the Psalms! In God’s wisdom, he inspired men like King David and others to detail their heart’s wrestling over similar struggles, and in the end, to point them to God’s faithfulness, his goodness, his sovereignty.  In that is my hope found, and in nothing else.  God has placed us in such a way that we really have nothing to place our hope in, other than him. The doctors are baffled. They have no answers, only more questions. They have no promises that everything will be fine. They can quote statistics and say “You’ve carried the baby this far, hopefully that means something good!”  But that is a false foundation on which to build my hope. If I placed my hope in all of that, I would crumble and fall if that all fell through.

But if I hope in the Gospel, Jesus’ sacrifice on my behalf, in God’s love for me, in his faithfulness and control over all things, I can rest securely that his will will be done, and he will be with us through it all, whether painful or joyful.  And I can trust that he is working all things together not only for my good, but for his glory.

“I have set the Lord always before me…I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8

God is Good. God is Good. God is Good.

I have been repeating that to my heart this last week. This whole pregnancy, really. I have been very aware of God’s sovereignty throughout and felt a strong assurance of His goodness no matter what happened.  What a gift of grace, what a great blessing as my trembling heart prepared itself for loss.

Thursday’s doctor appointment and my beta count only confirmed what I already knew had happened that morning.  The little life that God entrusted to me for a few short weeks was no longer mine to have and hold. In his sovereignty and, yes, his eternal goodness, he saw fit to take the tiny baby that he had given in the first place. Do I understand this? No. Do I like this? No.  But I choose to accept it and walk in the light of God’s goodness.

Music ministers to my heart in a way nothing else can. It is a balm to my soul. It is a comfort to my heart. It is a magnificent way to redirect my thoughts to truth and the gospel.  Strains of a few of my favorite songs keep running through my head these last few days. Take a moment and meditate on these sweet truths with me and may they minister grace to your soul as they have mine!

“You give and take away, but my heart will choose to say Lord blessed be your name.” (Matt Redman, Blessed Be Your Name, Job 1:21)

“We are pressed–but not crushed, persecuted–not abandoned, struck down–but not destroyed. We are blessed beyond the curse, for his promise will endure that his joy’s going to be my strength. Though the sorrow may last for the night, his joy comes with the morning.” (Trading My Sorrows, 2 Cortinthians 4:8)

“O death where is your sting? O hell where is your victory? O church, come stand in the light, the glory of God has defeated the night, our God is not dead, he’s alive, he’s alive!” (Matt Maher, Christ Is Risen, 1 Corinthians 15:55)

And Steven Curtis Chapman’s wonderful “Much of You, Jesus.”  That one, well, you just have to listen to!

I want to make much of You, Jesus
I want to make much of Your love
I want to live today to give You the praise
That You alone are so worthy of
I want to make much of Your mercy
I want to make much of Your cross
I give You my life
Take it and let it be used
To make much of You.

This is Your love, oh God
Not to make much of me
But to send Your own son
So that we could make much of You

For all eternity.”

God is good. God is good. God is good.

Where Is My Hope?

“The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” Psalm 118:14

Pregnancy #2 has been very different from pregnancy #1 thus far.  One of the most prominent differences is my trembling heart.  With Jeshuah, as soon as I was pregnant, I knew I was going to hold him in my arms and floated through pregnancy with complete confidence that he would be born healthy.  Those first weeks of pregnancy were filled with anticipation and excitement (and major morning sickness!).  I never once thought we may not hear a heartbeat at our 10 week appointment.  I didn’t wonder what we might find out at the ultrasound–other than the gender! I wasn’t concerned about his birth or complications we may face after his birth.  I had an overwhelming sense of peace throughout the whole thing.

This time has been very different.   Maybe it is because of so much loss in my family so recently.  I am very aware of the negative possibilities this time–they seem very real to me.  Maybe it is because, now that I know what motherhood is like, I am preemptively worrying over the things I am now aware could be a concern.  Maybe it is because I have felt so great this pregnancy and was instantly so sick with Jeshuah.  And so many people say it’s a good “sign” to be sick these first weeks. Each day, I wake wondering if I might lose the baby today. So when I started experiencing some bleeding last week, my heart sunk and I thought, “This is it; I might be losing the baby.”

The doctor ordered some bloodwork to check my beta count yesterday and then again tomorrow.  She said if this is a “healthy pregnancy,” those numbers should double.  So the next couple of days we are waiting for a phone call—and that phone call will really give us a very good idea of whether I will carry this baby to term or not. I wasn’t expecting to have that knowledge for a few more weeks, and it is rather unsettling to know that we could soon have an idea of whether I may miscarry this baby or not.

It’s true. I do not have the same calm, peaceful, confident feeling that I will hold this baby in my arms.  I am battling a barrage of “what ifs” every day.  I feel an awareness of the reality that things could not progress the way we would hope, and yet that anxiety is accompanied by a quiet, supernatural calm at the same time. It is rather difficult to explain, I guess, but I think it is just an awareness that, no matter what happens, God is good.  I know grief could lie ahead of us in this, but life is full of grief, and I know we will experience the consequence of a fallen, sinful world for our whole lives here, however that may manifest itself.

But that doesn’t change God’s character.  No matter what circumstances he brings into our lives, he is good. He does all things well.  He does all for his glory, and that is my heart’s desire.  In the words of that wonderful ancient hymn, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”  Those beta results do not equal my hope or my despair.  I dare not look to Thursday’s phone call and hope in a positive answer.  If the answer is not good, does that change who God is and who I am in him? No! And if I put my hope in the ideal that this will be a “healthy pregnancy,” where does that leave me if something still goes wrong? If our baby is born and we encounter problems, where does that leave our hope? If Jeshuah doesn’t turn out to be “normal” and “healthy,” as we are encouraged to believe, do our lives fall apart? I pray not, because I pray that our hope is not in the outcome of these circumstances but in Christ alone.

Last night, as we were getting ready to pray before bed, Stephen said “God has created our little one, and he created her specifically for his glory.” As he said that, an amazement washed over me as I envisioned God shaping and molding, knitting together our little “lentil” (as she is currently sized!) and placing her inside of me to grow.  But even as he did these things, he has a purpose for her life—even if it ends this week, next month, or next year. God created her for his purposes for his glory.  What a beautiful, comforting, awe-inspiring truth!

Now that I can hope in! That I can rejoice in, no matter the circumstance. That God is good and his will will be done to accomplish his glory.  This is the prayer of my heart. May God’s grace bring it about.

(Healthy) Eating for Two!

When I was pregnant with Jeshuah, I really didn’t have a clue what I was carrying inside me.  I mean, I knew there was a baby in there, but it was so abstract, I simply couldn’t wrap my mind around it.  It was, unfortunately, more about “being pregnant” and the excitement and attention that inevitably brings, than about caring for the little life growing inside me.

Especially if that impinged on my own desires.

For stuff like loads of sugar, caffeine, fast food, etc.  I was overwhelmed by all the things you’re not supposed to do when you are pregnant, and selfishly, I thought it was all a little over the top anyway.  So, I really didn’t pay much attention to what you should or shouldn’t do or eat.

This time around (oh, yeah, I’m pregnant!), it feels really, really different.  Although it is still early in the pregnancy, and there is such a surreal feeling surrounding it, I actually think I am even more excited this time than I was last time.  The first pregnancy, I really didn’t fully know what it was going to be like to have a child, to be a mom.  Now I understand a mother’s love, and I can hardly wait to wrap my arms around this new little one and watch her grow! (I have fondly decided she will be a she, not an it or a he:-)

I also have a whole new attitude regarding what I eat.  Combine all of my convictions, research, and concerns with Jeshuah, and I am very aware of the fact that what I eat, the baby eats.  So every time I reach for something, I ask myself, “Do I want the baby to eat that?” And if the answer is no, I find a healthier option. I want to give this little one the best start to life possible.  And I don’t mind sacrificing a few of life’s pleasures for a few months to do that. Now, that doesn’t mean that I will never enjoy a burger and coke, but let’s just say, that will be the exception, not the rule.

It has helped that we really just don’t have any junk food options in the house anymore.  It has also helped that I have found a bunch of new healthy snack food recipes and have begun building my stash so that when hunger calls, I can satisfy it in a positive way.

Ultimately, God is sovereign, and He is good. His will will be done with this little one, and it will be His good, perfect and pleasing will.  But I want to be responsible with this gift and this family and this body with which God has entrusted me.  So I will be posting more as I learn more about healthy, natural helps for expectant mamas!

One Year Ago Today…

It is December 22, 2010. On this day, one year ago, our lives changed forever!

One year ago today:

-We awoke with a sense of relief and expectancy. Stephen had finished driving into Chicago for work and I could now officially have the baby any time I wanted, although the due date was still a full 11 days off. The Dr had told us not to hold our breath on making it to the due date.

-Since we had a strong feeling we wouldn’t be sitting around on Christmas morning, we celebrated our Christmas that Tuesday morning, with coffee, cinnamon rolls, and lots of wonderful presents!

-Due to impending bad weather, my Mama, whom we hoped to have with us during delivery, called and said it was now or never for her to drive the 4 hours over. While fighting guilt for not being in labor and stealing Mom from Dad for Christmas, I plotted all sorts of delightful things we could do together to while away the time while we waited for Baby to make his appearance.

-Mama arrived at 6pm and at 6:30, as we sat on the couch, Daddy called to ask if I was in labor. As Mom meekly replied that no, I was not exactly in labor and Dad may have to spend Christmas alone for no good reason, my water broke! We plunged into action.

-I ate supper and sat around, determined to wait until the last possible minute to go to the hospital. Mom timed contractions, and Stephen flew (and I mean FLEW) around the house trying to finish packing the hospital bag and collect all that we would need.

-By 8pm we were driving the thirty minutes to the hospital and I was texting everyone the news. My contractions were rapidly increasing in frequency, though still quite mild, and Mom and Stephen were growing more and more apprehensive. I was in the “excited, energized” stage of labor!

-When we arrived they hooked me up for some tests and then released me to walk around to my heart’s content. I laid out a bunch of games for us to play while we waited, but it soon became apparent that there would be no waiting!

This video cracks me up because I look extremely drowsy, and I’m not sure why. Maybe just laying down in that warm bed made me sleepy. But that didn’t last long!

-I was able to stay up on a birthing ball or walking around until the baby became distressed in the transition stage and things began progressing so quickly it threw everyone into a panic. As I inhaled oxygen (I should say “tried to” as Stephen was smashing the mask against my nose and mouth in his haste so that it was mostly counter-productive.) We soon righted that, and within 15 minutes, the baby’s heart rate was back up.

-Everything was in full swing. Stephen was counting and breathing with me, Mom was quoting Scripture, making up hilarious tunes about labor, and coaching me in what to think about (and what NOT to think about, like bears in the Boundary Waters!)

-Within minutes, I met the Dr. for the first time as he waltzed into the room, pulled on his gloves, caught the baby and threw him on my chest. I announced his name (complete with my hard won “h” at the end:-) and they began scrubbing him up so I could snuggle him.

It was 11:02pm. Jeshuah Paul Willcox had entered the world of the breathing. Our lives were changed forever. And we are so thankful!!

Here are some sweet videos:

Every day I am more amazed at God’s gift of children. There have been many, many difficult lessons thus far, and I know there will be many, many more. But the joy of motherhood so far outweighs the trials that I am overwhelmed with God’s goodness. Jeshuah is such a sweet delight!! I continue to pray that we will have wisdom in this weighty and lofty task of parenthood. I am convinced raising and training a little human is the most difficult task on earth. Such a responsibility! We can only do it with God’s help! Thank you all of you who have joined with us in this journey and offered advise, comfort, counsel, and shared in the joy of our son. There is nothing like seeing someone else love on your children!

And today, we are going to love on this little Bundle of Joy all day long!